Book reviews — April 2013
'By River, Fields and Factories: the Making of the Lower Lea Valley — Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Investigations on the Site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games', by Andrew B Powell
Wessex Archaeology Report No. 29. Wessex Archaeology and Olympic Delivery Authority 2012. ISBN 978-1874350-59-0, £30
Wessex Archaeology have now published a full report on the results of the archaeological investigations carried out by MoLAS/PCA, RPS Planning and Development and AOC Archaeology Group on the Olympic Park, which involved some 121 evaluation trenches, followed up by eight mitigation trenches, and 24 built heritage reports. (GLIAS Newsletter December 2012).
The work covered the whole Olympic Park except for the areas now covered by the Westfield Stratford City Development and the Athletes Village, which was covered separately. The first half of the report deals chronologically with the development of the Lower Lea Valley and the second half looks in detail at the finds. There are interesting sections on the development and use of the waterways, as means of communication, water supply, power for mills and improvement of drainage to prevent flooding; and comments on changing building styles over time. Evidence of early industry is limited, but the report highlights Temple Mills as spanning the period between the medieval and post-medieval mill-based industry. Excavations revealed a medieval mill with a furnace and a timber-lined water channel, possibly for a water wheel. Other early industries appeared to include hemp and tanning.
Some 40 pages of the report are devoted to the built heritage recording of industrial buildings, which include August Smith's Brush and Mat Factory; Slater & Palmer, printing ink manufacturers; Marshgate Lane Tar and Turpentine Distillery, Colour Works and Oil Works, tallow, candle and varnish works and other chemical and engineering works; Jerome Engineering; John Alderson Rope Works; the Clarnico factory; the Victoria Oil and Candle Works; the Lea Bank Soap and Candle Works; and the Lea Valley Distillery [see London's Industrial Archaeology No 9, pp24-27]. There is extensive discussion of the Clarnico facory, with drawings and photographs. They even had their own fire brigade. Unfortunately, they could only record the structure of many of the other buildings, where there was little or no surviving evidence of the processes undertaken. Brian James-Strong
'King's Cross: a sense of place', by Angela Inglis with Nigel Buckner
226pp., many illus, ISBN 978 1 78088 331 1. Published 2012 by Matador. £19.95
I came across this book in the new Watermark Bookstore in the King's Cross Station concourse. (I learn via Google that this is the first Watermark store to open in Europe; others are in Australia and North America.) From its title I assumed that it would address the area centred on the main-line station, but in fact it focuses, and very thoroughly, on the history and the regeneration of the area immediately east of that station, an area bounded by York Way, Calshot Street, Pentonville Road and the Regent's Canal. This is a part of London with a rich industrial history, much of which has been threatened in recent decades by the initial proposal for an international terminal at King's Cross Station and by subsequent commercial redevelopment schemes. Thanks to the energy and commitment of many local residents and some others, much of it has been refurbished and today is a thriving mix of business and residential activity. This achievement is documented in this book, illustrated with excellent photographs, many in colour and many by the author Angela Inglis, whose earlier photographic study 'Railway Lands' had recorded the changing face of the area around the Eurostar terminal in its eventually adopted home of St Pancras Station. Chapters describe the successful struggle to persuade developers and planners that the area merited sympathetic refurbishment as a community rather than wholesale redevelopment. Tribute is rightly paid to the local folk, conservationists, supportive politicians and planners, and others who devoted so much of their time and energy to this cause.
To complement this, the industrial history and archaeology of the area is recounted in two substantial chapters by GLIAS member Malcolm Tucker. The first covers the western half of the area, sometimes known as Battle Bridge and now named the Regent Quarter, while the second chapter is concerned with the Battlebridge canal basin to the north, and the industrial buildings and sites clustered around it (including what is now the London Canal Museum). Malcolm's distinctive hand-drawn plans and his meticulous research are complemented by his valuable black-and-white record photographs, many taken in the 1970s when 'King's Cross' mainly meant 'railway station' to most Londoners, including — I must confess — me.
This is a very approachable paperback, generously illustrated and nicely produced. Its attention to the community and the individuals who participated in the regeneration of the area rightly reminds us that, while buildings and structures are the artefacts of industrial archaeology, places are made by, and for, people. Michael Bussell
'London's railway heritage — architecture, engineering and industrial archaeology, Volume Two: North East', by Peter Kay
96pp., many illus, ISBN 978 1 899890 46 0. Published 2013 by the author. £13.95. Obtainable by post from the author (post free, cheques payable to P. Kay) at 6C Park Road, Wivenhoe, Essex CO7 9NB
In Newsletter 261 I reviewed the first volume of this series (London East). This second volume moves anti-clockwise, covering principally the Great Eastern Railway's main line through Stratford and Romford out to Harold Wood (excluding Liverpool Street Station in the City), the Fairlop Loop, and the line to Ongar. Briefer sections deal with the Central Line extension (between Leytonstone and Newbury Park), and surviving features on the short line between Stratford and Victoria Park. The (few) listed buildings and structures on these lines are noted, and half a page of concise notes amends or supplements information in Volume One.
Page numbering continues from Volume One, so we have now 182 pages on what is a relatively small sector of London's railways. As in Volume One and the author's two volumes of Essex Railway Heritage, this is essentially a narrative and visual guide to what remains of the railway infrastructure (and to some of what has been lost). Informative notes on history and construction are complemented by copious photographs and numerous local plans and building elevational drawings, all crisply printed on good quality art paper. The Eastern Counties Railway's London viaduct, and the associated Bishopsgate and Brick Lane goods depots, receive particularly detailed coverage — I counted 67 photographs and 11 plans occupying nearly 20 pages. I again found it helpful to study this volume with Joe Brown's London Railway Atlas (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013) to hand, helping me to locate lines and stations in context.
Volume Three should appear next year, covering the lines serving Enfield and Chingford and the Tottenham & Forest Gate route. As a self-publisher (and an energetic one at that), Mr Kay invites contact from those interested in future volumes, so that he can advise them when publication is imminent; he also welcomes corrections to work already published. Michael Bussell
© GLIAS, 2013